I am a Ph.D. Candidate and Connaught Scholar in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. 

I do research in philosophy of communication, specifically that which is high-context, diplomatic, plausibly deniable, strategic, indirect, subtle, nonverbal, and nonconventional.  This includes propaganda, political dogwhistling, implicature, insinuation, connotation, euphemism, inside jokes, hinting, prosody, register, genre, and modality. I study how a general awareness of social norms is required to perform and interpret these kinds of utterances.

My dissertation uses Sperber & Wilson's Relevance Theory to show how humans communicate through ostensive deviations from convention. My view can help us understand, among other things, how traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder are related: specifically I aim to show that a lack of awareness about social conventions can explain disabilities in communication and 'mindreading' (i.e. attributing intentions to other agents). This project is overseen by Cheryl Misak (supervisor), Joseph Heath, Nate Charlow, and Brendan de Kenessey. 

Eventually I hope to show that sensory sensitivities can explain disabilities in detecting social conventions, as well, meaning that several symptoms of ASD would be explained by just the sensory component. This would facilitate treatment and diagnosis of Autism, as well as other conditions that present similarly. 

In addition to philosophy I have a passion for issues surrounding mental health and disability. During the pandemic I trained as a peer counsellor and helped found our department's inaugural Mental Health & Disability Caucus, receiving a Graduate Student Service Award for my work in this role. 

Before attending the University of Toronto I received a B.A. in Philosophy with Honors and a minor in Physics from the University of Tennessee.

Contact me at kristen.beard@mail.utoronto.ca